Monday, 1 December 2014

WHAT IS PREMIER DAVIS TO DO?

Following the P.C. Party’s defeat in last Tuesday’s two by-elections, one might have had some sympathy for Premier Davis if he had not been part of the Dunderdale and Marshall Governments.  Davis had an opportunity to deal with those years of misrule. He didn’t. 
  
Upon winning the Tory Leadership, Davis should have dashed for the job, attempted to strike a different tone and set a new agenda. Instead, he dallied on getting sworn-in, chose a politically inexperienced Chief of Staff, made a balls of his new Cabinet, signalled the wrong public policy priorities and proceeded to confirm he was happy with the Government’s record. 

Not having caused the current Session of the House of Assembly to prorogue, he lost a strategic opportunity to assert additional ideas for a ‘fresh’ image.   He overlooked the fact that the chief function of a Throne Speech is to signal innovation and renewal to an expectant public.


Now, Davis enjoys (sic) three fewer Seats together with the perception (perhaps, the reality, too) he has brought nothing to the job. By-elections in Trinity-Bay de Verde and Humber East were lost with margins larger than those that reported when Dunderdale and Marshall were in Office. While he can’t take the responsibility for all the damage done by Dunderdale, his leadership, to date, continues to be a drag on an intellectually and financially impoverished Government.

Can Davis start over?

Not likely.

The Premier has limitations.  He sails inside a safe harbour when the destination he seeks requires navigating rough waters outside.  

He has a narrow comfort zone. He needs political expertise to compensate for his own deficiencies; but Joe Brown is a paramilitary man with the skills required for a command bureaucracy.  The justice and court house decisions do not speak to voter expectations, either.

Last week, Davis told the Telegram: “I’m never convinced that a byelection is reflective of what the people of the province are looking for…”

One by-election loss may not be reflective of much; but, three are. Seven losses equal a message shouted from the roof tops.

Former Finance Minister Charlene Johnson’s comments to a CBC reporter, last Tuesday night, might have spoken to Davis’ malady when she expressed being “completely dumbfounded” over her father’s loss in Trinity-Bay de Verde. Ms. Johnson said, “…she saw the pavement, fire trucks, municipal infrastructure…this government did so much for these communities and this is what happens in return…”

Johnson’s thinking is as archaic and as it is offensive. It speaks to an attitude which infected the Williams/Dunderdale/Marshall Cabinets and, because they constitute largely the same crowd, infects Davis and his Cabinet, too.  For them the attitude is just ‘normal’. In spite of having presided over the best funded government in history, it is not infrastructure but 'attitude' that is emblematic. 

The Tories don’t realize that most of them won their Districts on the coattails of Danny Williams. While Danny was an arrogant showman, he had a talent for connecting with voters.  Unfortunately, his admirers, including Davis, failed to understand the limitations of his skill.  They learned nothing about his ability to connect; they merely cashed in on his unseemly cache.  Voters may have interpreted Williams’ arrogance as bravado.  But, in Dunderdale and the others, the attitude had no camouflage.

That, in a nutshell, is the Tory Administration’s undoing.

Voters love new pavement; they want to see improvements in their communities and in government funded projects and services. But such gains do not trump legitimate criticism, secrecy or corruption. 

The public may be less upset with Davis, personally, than determined to chastise him for his predecessor’s sins. He had one opportunity to make large and empathetic moves in an attempt to dispel their ghosts. He tripped up at the start.

The upshot is that the public are eager to embrace the Liberals; but not because they are ready with new ideas.  In the absence of an alternative, the public just feel safer with them.
What is Premier Davis to do?

Likely, the public don’t care as long as he doesn’t get more reckless, as his woes are compounded. Falling oil prices have illuminated the government’s irresponsible fiscal management; this third budget deficit, in a row, is now in the range of $1 billion. 

The Government’s real problem is not OPEC’s failure to prop up an oil market, using monopolistic practices illegal here. It’s that drunken sailors should have no role in fiscal policy.

But to the question: what is Premier Davis to do?  Essentially, he can do nothing. 

Why? 

Davis doesn’t ‘understand’ why the Government is unpopular. He doesn’t get it in the same way that Dunderdale and Marshall didn’t. Not understanding the problem means he is unable to fix it.

This Administration has earned a distain reserved for the guilty. The public want the Tories gone. 

Political Science Associate Professor Kelly Blidook commented that Davis lacked the “moral authority” to continue. He may have a point; though it will be the Caucus who will arbitrate if the Administration will survive much longer. We will look for more defections and resignations.

One other thing is clear: if Davis stays on the current path, not only his Caucus won’t win a Seat in the next general election; he won’t win his own.

7 comments:

  1. Great summary! Davis is so far in over his head that he can't see the light of day. The people of the province can only hope for damage control until the next election is called. Rumor has it that a spring election may be called prior to the next budget, reason being that they have made such mess of the province's finances, they won't stand a chance once the cat is out of the bag.

    While some are skeptical of Dwight Ball's leadership, I take some comfort in his approach of not making promises that cannot be kept. Once the liberals take office, they will have significant challenges. Spending must be reduced and a more realistic approach to budget planning is critical. And last but far from least, they have to tackle the Muskrat Falls fiasco and the less than competent management team at Nalcor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The reality of 70$ barrel will quickly and effecienty expose the negligence of Williams in increasing public spending in the province. Dunderdale and Davis simply inherited the mess, and were unwilling to make the required changes.

    Williams will go down in history as the absolutely worse premier in our province (of those having a tenure of more than 2 years). We have a mess to clean up.

    Ball will have a big job to undertake.

    Lets cross our fingers that oil will go to levels predicted by Nalcor, when MF was sanctioned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ray Guy said it correctly, "....A cardinal rule of journalism is to never ever lay any blame of any kind on the reader. Shag that. I'm old enough now to be beyond rules, censure or the hangman's noose. You, the great Newfoundland voter, are an incorrigible crowd of brain-deads."

      As a small business operator NL needed a "conservative" government when oil revenues started to flow. Instead we got NDPC. Williams et al. made a shag of it pure and simple. I would argue that many in the business community were complicit because of their silence. Remember all the standing ovations each time he spoke at the St. John's Board of Trade.

      The "energy warehouse" will put us in the "economic poorhouse". Never mind crossing your fingers...there's an economic tsunami headed our way and it's called Muskrat Falls.

      Keith Ryan

      Delete
  3. There is simply no credible scenario for longer term (next 3-5 years) return to oil prices in the range predicted by Government. Fracking will make the US the world's largest oil producer soon, if that hasn't already happened. Natural gas abundance is putting electrical utilities under extreme pressure as the price moves continuously down - currently NEPOOL seems to be showing pricing in the 4 cent range. There is no realistic way that our now stranded gas deposits will be developed.
    this isn't the worst thing in the world yet, but it will be. An aging population is shifting into retirement as the "jobs" from the offshore construction end, so we may see less of an indicated unemployment catastrophe, but the harsh bitter truth will show that we were fools to not take that found money and pay down the debt.
    I'm ok. I am not dependant on a government pension, so I won't be left dangling when the current round of promises turns out to be profoundly ill advised. but god help us all when the true cost of Muskrat hits and we recognise that there is no market whatsoever, domestically elsewhere in canada, provincially or export market, that will buy it and pay the cost of producing it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 2 billion spent on MF so far according to Ed Martin. Imagine the cutbacks needed in other services as we keep spending.... 8 billion or more, on this sink hole. Once it was a big deal to waste 20 million on the cucumber scheme. Now we waste 8000 million and hardly a peep. We may have to join the province of Quebec to avoid bankruptsy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If, indeed, only 2 Billion has been spent so far…all the more reason to pull the plug NOW.

      I firmly believe the cancellation of this project is in the long-term best interest of the province but, in the absence of any real transparency, the expenditures thus far could be significantly higher even now.

      However, to continue to spend money on this ill-conceived project, is fiscal insanity and I continue to hope for its cancellation.

      Delete